Police Chief Art Acevedo on Wednesday touted a drop in Austin’s violent crime but said that property crime continues to be a challenge.
Compared with 2011, Austin’s violent crime rate per 100,000 residents dropped 5 percent, and the property crime rate remained steady, according to statistics from the FBI’s 2012 unified crime report that Acevedo presented at a news conference.
Looking at the total number of incidents, Austin saw a sharp rise in homicides last year — the city’s 33 slayings were a 22 percent increase over the 27 in 2011 — but violent crime overall was down 2 percent last year, from 3,470 to 3,407 offenses, according to the report. Property crime, meanwhile, rose 3 percent citywide, from 42,250 offenses in 2011 to 43,472 in 2012.
The FBI classifies murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault as violent crime in its report, while burglary, theft and auto theft make up property crime.
Since he arrived at the department in 2007, Acevedo said, the total number of violent crime offenses has dropped 11.1 percent from 3,593, and the total number of property crime incidents has dropped 4.35 percent from 45,130.
He said the city feels safer and that the numbers bear out that it is.
Compared with other U.S. cities with a population of 500,000 people or more, Austin has the second-fewest violent crime offenses per 100,000 residents, Acevedo said, falling behind only San Jose, Calif. Austin ranks 26th in property crime, he said.
“The city of Austin is now the second-safest American city … in terms of people being able to be safe of violent crime,” Acevedo said.
However, the FBI cautions against using its crime data to compile rankings of cities and counties, saying that leads to simplistic or incomplete analyses that can create misleading perceptions. There are many variables that aren’t easily measured but that could contribute to crime in different areas of the country, according to the FBI, such as geography, demographics, how transient a city’s population is, its ethnic makeup, and its age and gender composition, among other factors.
According to the FBI’s annual crime report — a compilation of offense and arrest data reported voluntarily by law enforcement agencies across the country — the estimated rate of violent crime nationwide was 386.9 per 100,000 people, virtually unchanged from 2011. The national property crime rate dropped 1.6 percent compared with 2011, now at a rate of 2,859.2 offenses per 100,000 people.
The total number of violent crimes across the country increased 0.7 percent, according to the report, and property crimes decreased for the 10th year in a row, dropping 0.9 percent.
Discussing why property crime is still a “huge issue” in Austin, Acevedo speculated that some residents have a false sense of security because violent crime is not prevalent. For example, he said, there is no forced entry on a third of all burglaries because residents had not locked their doors or windows. Acevedo also cited lenient sentences for repeat offenders as a contributing factor, and he urged residents to secure their homes.
“We need the community’s help,” he said. “Every time somebody breaks into a home is one step closer to an aggravated assault, a sexual assault or a homicide. That’s why we need to do more.”
Crime / 2012 offenses / percentage change from 2011
Murder / 33 / up 22 percent
Rape / 209 / down 1 percent
Robbery / 978 / down 12 percent
Aggravated assault / 2,187 / up 3 percent
Total violent crime / 3,407 / down 2 percent
Burglary/ 7,244/ up 3 percent
Theft / 33,913 / up 3 percent
Auto theft / 2,315 / up 8 percent
Total property crime / 43,472 / up 3 percent
Crime / 2012 offense rate per 100,000 residents / percentage change from 2011
Murder / 4 / up 18 percent
Rape / 25 / down 4 percent
Robbery / 117 / down 14 percent
Aggravated assault / 263 / 0 percent
Total violent crime / 409 / down 5 percent
Burglary / 870 / 0 percent
Theft / 4,072 / down 1 percent
Auto theft / 278 / up 5 percent
Total property crime / 5,219 / 0 percent
Source: Austin Police Department, FBI
2012 violent crime in Central Texas:
City / Population / Incidents / Per capita
Austin / 832,901 / 3,405 / 0.004
Bastrop / 7,415 22 / 0 / 0.003
Bee Cave / 4,137 / 12 / 0.003
Buda / 7,797 / 10 / 0.001
Cedar Park / 52,051 / 109 / 0.002
Elgin / 8,386 / 21 / 0.003
Georgetown / 50,304 / 66 / 0.001
Kyle / 29,732 / 107 / 0.004
Leander / 28,244 / 41 / 0.001
Manor / 5,313 / 22 / 0.004
Round Rock / 106,232 / 141 / 0.001
San Marcos / 47,384 / 164 / 0.003